Commonwealth and Council

Phantom Lands

Rosha Yaghmai


Commonwealth and Council presents Phantom Lands by Rosha Yaghmai, the artist’s first solo presentation with the gallery.

Yaghmai’s glitchy transmissions of the familiar manifest in a playful blend of industrial and handmade forms—rusted gas pipes as twisted strands of human hair, sheets of prescription lenses like stained glass curtains—to create uncanny landscapes where vision is altered and the foreign turns porous. The resulting works are environments of estrangement where relation is forged through a psychedelic entanglement of that which is both out-of-body yet resolutely rooted in a bodily experience of space.

Phantom Lands explores the traces of time and memory that slip across a multidimensional habitation of place. Spectral impressions track their residue across every surface in the exhibition. Where wildflowers spring from the push of oil pastel through screen mesh onto black enamel in the nebulous and immersive Phantom Lands (Rubbing)—a cheeky wink, in part, to the warped perspective of another impressionist surreality, Monet’s water lilies—Phantom Lands (Imprint) rematerializes the exact same flowers in aluminum as if they were zapped frozen in their jump between dimensions, silver buds partially crushed under the weight of two imprinted human arms. The effect is that of the body situating itself across multiple temporalities at once, bouncing—dragging, even—through the surface portals of the sister mirrors.

Yaghmai describes her artistic practice as partially informed by her first-generation upbringing in southern California. Though Yaghmai was conceived in her father’s native Iran (to where her parents had emigrated from northern California in the 1970s), her family soon returned to the United States where Yaghmai was born at the start of the Iranian Revolution. While closely identifying with the cultural and geographical landscape in which she has spent the entirety of her life, Yaghmai also speaks to the knowledge of what could have been as though living with a phantom limb.

Yaghmai’s visual practice thus has come to embrace visual reflection, distortion, and the disruption of perception as its primary materials. The effects are, in many ways, an attempt to elucidate the experience of an altered trajectory; a refraction running parallel to another life. The twenty foot long Phantom Lands (Rubbing) is specifically fabricated to recall the mirror surface of a Claude glass (aka black mirror), nodding to the curious sensation of intimacy experienced through indirect sight, a closeness only tangible in the rear view. Yet, in its whimsical stacking of layered vision through cloudy glass, works such as Optometer, Receptions (primarily comprised of found corrective lenses, a recurrent material in Yaghmai’s practice) remind us that the veil of fractured sight can also be full of play and delight, offering new perspectives on how to connect and how to belong.

Rosha Yaghmai (b. 1978, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts (2007) and a BFA from School of Visual Arts, New York (2001). Solo exhibitions have been held at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (2022); Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation, Ojai (2022); Kayne Griffin Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2019); Cleopatra’s, Brooklyn (2016); and Weiss, Berlin (2016). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield (2017); Tate St Ives, Cornwall (2017); Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2018); The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2018); The Finley, Los Angeles (2018); Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles (2018); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2016); Public Fiction, Los Angeles (2014); and Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2008). Yaghmai is a recipient of a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2019); Villa Aurora Fellowship, Berlin (2016); and Terra Foundation Fellowship, Giverny (2009). She is also represented by Pace, Los Angeles.

Yaghmai’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.